Moon Wax are a duo from humble Middlesbrough but with big sights. Their track ‘Girl in Green’ is the first single the duo have released in preparation for further single releases, showcasing their craftsmanship in the studio and musicianship preceding this project. With a certain self-awareness and professionalism that oozes through their work and their commentary, Robb and Billy demonstrate traits that can only be an asset to musicians so early in a new project. Despite their name being yet unfamiliar to some, their experience within the industry values them as ones to watch in the near future.
Catching up with the lads in isolation, we gain an insight into their aims and values as musicians, as well as the musical landscape they desire to create for themselves.
Can you tell us about how ‘Girl in Green’ came to be the track we hear today and your influences?
R: Our influence is just production value – I know that sounds a bit odd, but anything you can tell someone has spent an awfully long time producing and perfecting, anything that just rings nicely with your ears, and we definitely pull inspiration from your old R&B vibes. Massive love for Pharell, Ronson, Calvin Harris, people like that.
When it comes to approaching music, do you find that artists you’re currently listening to may inspire the music writing process, or is it more of a spur-of-the-moment thought?
R: How do we approach a song? I don’t know, they all just come from sitting around bored and coming up with ideas. 9 times out of 10 they start with a beat.
B: I normally lay the first bits down, then I bring them to Robb and he just completely changes everything to be fair (laughing). It’s just two minds coming together, and it does depend on what we listen to at the time.
R: You can’t really ballpark it to one genre, it’s more like the production feel, anything you listen to that sounds fresh, everything from pop to dance.
We try to keep it simple as far as writing song goes, the magic happens in production, and that’s where we also translate our influences a little more.
Girl in Green has quite a summery vibe as well, a big-bay window surrounds our studio and the weather has a definite influence on the music too…
Looking at your influences in terms of artists and genres, how do you want listeners to interpret Moon Wax differently as not to think ‘Oh that’s another electronic/R&B track’? How do you make those influences ‘Moon Wax’?
R: We try to make all of our songs different. You can listen to some bands and albums and they’ll all kind of be the same, all trying to hit one niche in an album. You can’t really stray too far from a genre when you’re making an album, and I think that’s the reason we’re releasing singles as well; it’s a lot easier to be diverse and explore different paths.
B: I feel we make it different because originally I’m a guitarist and Robb’s a drummer and when we put those aspects in there, like the guitar and drum solos, It starts to give the track character and makes it different.
R: But it’s still got that dance feel. When you think about a dance song you wouldn’t necessarily think about live drums and guitar, it’s mainly a backbeat or a solid bassline that track that you’d hear on the radio, and I think that gives it something that other artists don’t have and makes it quite game changing.
On your socials, you’ve shared remixes of more old school sounds. Is this something you find energizing for your own methods, or is it mainly for fun?
B: It was mainly for fun. We did that it was a one-off since we were in lockdown and couldn’t work together face to face. We just kept sending stuff back and forth. We both like 90’s/80’s hip-hop and sampling stuff. We saw it as a fun thing, but we definitely bring those techniques to our production.
R: It’s all practice really, as much as it was us just messing about, it all translates sooner or later through your music. You’ll try something daft and learn how to do something new, then put it in one of your own songs. Also it is always nice to try and reinvent old songs. The music industry has come a long way but that doesn’t mean those talents are now obsolete. To try and reinterpret that talent in a modern age is really interesting and very fun to do.
Outside of remixing, what do you prioritize in the studio as a staple of the Moon Wax name?
R: When we’re in the creative process, we don’t really prioritize anything. Especially laying the foundations to the track, the bass the drums etc. It does take a turn once we got our foundations, which are always inspired; the song always comes from somewhere or someone. But once we have those foundations I think the priority is then adding our twist to it as neither of us were primarily producers; we are musicians in our own respects.
That’s not overdoing things though… maybe a drum fill will find its way in, but that drum fill might be blues-inspired and then the blues licks will come in on guitar, jazz fill then a jazz lick etc. and I think that’s what makes it different.
B: Everyone was surprised when we did this because we’ve only ever played together live,
And we we’re only known for that in the local music scene. So when we started Moon Wax people were sort of like ‘Woah what are these guys doing?’.
R: I did some producing in Uni but it was always quite circumstantial and never my own material, and Billy’s always produced on the side, but people are starting to come up to us now and are asking us to produce their tracks. Recently we’ve even been mixing acoustic stuff, which is different to us, but we’re starting to get a name for ourselves as producers, which is good; that’s what we want.
What would you like to establish as a part of Moon Wax, whereby someone listens to a track and knows it’s one of yours?
R: It’s all about that level of production, a nice clean track. It’s a tough question because we don’t want to be known for one certain sound, like I said we keep putting out singles because we constantly want to be doing different things. You do get a vibe from the tracks that we have put out that’s similar, and can tell they’re from the same place, but I think that’s literally down to the production. We want to be known for music that sits well; music that can be listened to in any circumstance.
B: We want to be in America basically and doing this sort of thing over there. That’s sort of where our sound comes from, American R&B and stuff. Before ‘Girl in Green’, when we first got together, we were doing some work for an artist, and we said ‘Why don’t we just get together and start recording a track’; we’ve been saying it for years to be fair. It started as a bit of messing about, and then we thought about putting it out there. Now approaching our second single release on the 4th of July, and its full steam ahead this time!
How do you think it will differ?
R: It’s not too different vibe-wise, they were both written with Summery intentions,
I think you can hear how that has translated through the song; it’s positive music.
B: This is kind of our take on a lockdown track, so I guess lyrically it’s about trying to see yourself in a different place that’s not stuck in your house.
In terms of putting a musical project together, is this your first attempt?
R: We have tried to start a couple of things before, but I think the reason we started this band with just the two of us is simply because it can be a nightmare trying to put a band together. The more people in it, the harder it is. It is class having 6 people play on stage with you, but it’s a nightmare to sort; its hard get those same people in the same place week in week out, it feels impossible. Then there’s the clash of opinions if you’re writing with that many people and more than often, too many cooks spoil the broth. When you’ve got two opinions that match and gel so well, you don’t want other opinions to get in the way of it; we know what we want our music to sound like, we have total trust in each other musically and that’s the beauty of only having two people in this project.
When it comes to playing live, what’s the sort of atmosphere you’d want to create as opposed to other artists?
B: We’re looking forward to playing live because we’ve always played live together, but never yet in our own project. About two years ago we were in a funk band, and we would pull big local crowds and put on a mint show, so we’re looking forward to putting the band together. We’ve got good friends in mind. We want to put on a tight show; everything perfect.
R: We’ve got some quality musicians we want in mind, and it’ll be really exciting to see the creative process translate through them.
Do you have any venues in mind that you’d like to play either imminently or further down the line?
R: There are a lot of venues up and down the country that we’d love to hit up, it would be nice to hit the Leeds music scene and London is a definite focal point, however what we’re mainly going for is America. We’re in the process of sorting a trip next year. That is the goal, that’s the endgame. There’s kind of a ceiling around here about how popular this music could get, there’s currently only about 3 live music venues in Middlesbrough, so once you’ve played them where do you go? That’s why we’ve set out goals over there; the venues over there are perfect, and everyone vibes on this style over there.
In light of that, would you consider doing live streams?
R: We have talked about it, but it’s a tough one. I think with the live streaming, 9 times out of 10 you’ve got an artist sitting with a guitar who can take requests and I think the reason that it’s taken off so much, with peoples current need to be social. At the same time, we have seen DJs doing live streams but with this kind of music, it’s all about production value. It’s all about the end product and the production on that sound. When you’ve got people listening to live streams with phones that are buffering every 30 seconds, it can cause more damage than good for artists like us, the music just wouldn’t translate well. It just comes down to sound quality. What we landed on for social media was behind the scenes studio footage, and when the next single drops we will be providing a full tutorial to the creation process.
B: I think what we want is that - when an artist asks themselves “Who do we go to for a well polished track?”, we want to be those two producers that they go to. Even as live musicians and people needing session musicians you know, “Can we get Moon Wax in?”.
R: We haven’t been as active recently as other artists, but we have a lot planned, a lot up our sleeve. We have the next three singles pretty much ready. We’re sorting our trip to America, speaking to producers, working on collaborative projects, mixing and mastering for people; we are staying busy, and it’s coming!
What do you think people should look out for with Moon Wax?
R: The main message I’d like to say, is that although it’s a slow game on our behalf at the moment, we are on the verge of big things and big sounds. We are perfectionists and we will spend months on one song, but I’d like our audience to pick up on that; I’d like people to recognize how long it’s taken, listen to it and hopefully come away thinking, ‘That’s sick, it’s produced well, it rings well, it sounds great, it sticks in your head’.
B: We try to do that with every song and project. We listen to a lot of Jamiroquai – who doesn’t love Jamiroquai, catchy music that gets stuck in your head, and that’s what we’re gonna give you. Quality beats.
‘Girl in Green’ introduces listeners to the duo’s grapple with funk and house landscapes, and
is available to stream on Spotify.
Moon Wax's new track 'Sayonara' is out 4th July 2020
Listen to Girl In Green Here
Check out Moon Wax on Facebook Here